How You See the World Affects the World You See: The Science of Mind Over Matter

Many of you are undoubtedly familiar with the placebo effect. It is the undeniable phenomenon, where someone is unknowingly given a fake medicine for their ailment, and through the power of their own belief in the medicine’s “effectiveness,” the patient actually gets better. The point is: The power of the person’s thought causes the natural healing in the body to occur.

Let us take this one step further. A 2014 systemic review of placebo surgeries found that nearly 75 percent of all fake operations led to improvement in the patient. So this begs the question, if the mind can really heal itself, what else can it do?

In the early 1800's, there was a physics experiment conducted by a scientist named Thomas Young that has left scientists scratching their heads ever since. The double-slit experiment, as it is known, has flipped our understanding of reality and consciousness upside down. In the experiment there is a board with two slits, and photon light particles are shot through the two slits one at a time. A wall on the other side of the board, catches the photons, and shows the interference pattern they produce as they pass through the slits. The hypothesis was that light photons could behave as either a particle or a wave (i.e. matter or a frequency), but it turns out that they can behave as BOTH a particle AND a wave.

First let us take a hypothetical wave form and the interference pattern it produces as it passes through the slits. The interference pattern left by the wave on the backdrop makes logical sense. The ripples of the wave interact with each other as they pass through the slits causing a particular pattern to emerge. The problem, however, is that a single photon particle has nothing to react with in the same way as the wave does, so the fact that the same exact type of interference pattern is left behind by the individual photon particles is mind blowing. It is almost as if they knew ahead of time where they were supposed to end up.

If the photons can be both a particle and a wave, all possibilities must exist until the moment the pattern is observed. The act of observation itself is what defines the outcome. This calls to mind the old adage: if a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it still make a sound? According to quantum mechanics, the answer to this philosophical question is a definitive no. For it is the very act of observing something that defines what it is. The observing is what gives the free-flowing wave possibilities a defined place in space. In other words, it is what makes the wave a particle.

What does this mean for us? Quantum mechanics has shown us that the way we attach our thoughts to things gives them a life all their own, and defines what they are. The placebo effect is a prime example of this. This idea that our thoughts have an affect on our reality is not new however. For as Shakespeare once wrote, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

Two key takeaways from this discussion are: one, the world that you currently see is made up of your previous thoughts. And two, your current thoughts will determine the future world you see.

John Lennon once said, “Reality leaves a lot to the imagination.” This is not the flippant, reductive statement of the world that it seems to be, but rather it is an instructional statement for those willing to read between the lines. It is not that reality is lacking, rather that reality leaves room for our thoughts to shape the world as we see it. In other words, we are only limited by the power of our own imagination. Our aspirations are called “dreams” for a reason.


In order to create our reality, it is up to us to first vividly imagine our goals in our mind’s eye. Then, as a result of our dreaming, we can begin to feel that "reality" as if it has really happened. Feeling as if something has already happened is half the battle. Belief is the feeling of a thought, and belief is all it takes for the placebo effect to work. Thus, if we clearly envision our goals, and truly believe in our dreams, then science says that the world will be no different than how we imagine it to be. We are the observer of the ill-defined waves of light all around us, and using the power of our minds we can shape them into clearly defined things that "matter" to us.